Alcoholic drinks with caffeine 'unsafe'22nd November 2010
Four US companies have been warned that adding caffeine to alcoholic drinks makes them unsafe.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have written to four drinks manufacturers asking for detailed information about what goes into their drinks and asking them to change their marketing practices.
The firms were: Oregon-based Charge Beverages, which makes the Core High range of caffeinated alcopops, Boston-based New Century Brewing, which produces Moonshot, Chicago-based Phusion Products, which makes Four Loko, and San Diego-based United Brands, which produces drinks called Joose and Max.
The letters warn the companies that the caffeine they put into the drinks is classed as an unsafe additive under federal law.
Caffeine can mask the effects of alcohol, meaning that people consume more alcohol than they otherwise might because they don't feel drunk.
Officials say the fact that the beverages are popular and widely sold might also give the impression that they are safe.
But FTC consumer protection chief David Vladeck said the caffeinated alcohol drinks could pose significant risks to consumer health and safety.
Young, inexperienced drinkers in particular might not realise how much alcohol they were taking in.
The FTC has strongly urged the companies to review the way the drinks are marketed, ordering them to take swift and immediate steps to protect consumers.
The companies have 15 days to comply.
The letters were produced following extensive research among peer-reviewed studies on the consumption of alcohol and caffeine, as well as independent laboratory testing of the drinks concerned.
Top FDA official Joshua Sharfstein said the agency did not agree with the view that the drinks were generally recognised as safe, because the evidence suggested there were public health concerns.
Caffeinated alcoholic drinks could lead to dangerous and life-threatening situations, the FDA says.
Concerned parents and politicians have campaigned for some time against the way caffeinated alcoholic drinks are marketed.
In New York State, the Liquor Authority and the state’s largest beer distributors agreed to stop selling the drinks this week.
Authorities in Oklahoma, Utah, Michigan, and Washington are also moving towards a ban on the drinks.
Phusion has since said it will drop caffeine from Four Loko, while United Brands has promised to cooperate with regulators.
New Century Brewing has said that Moonshot contains only a tiny amount of caffeine, much less than the products made by the other three companies.
Charge Beverages was unavailable for comment ahead of publication.
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